An annulment of marriage operates in similar fashion to a dissolution of
marriage: once the Court enters judgment, your marriage is terminated
and you are considered a single person again. There are important distinctions
between the two causes of action that this posting will address, but both
proceedings ultimately result in the termination of your marriage.
An annulment of marriage should be considered when the actual validity
of your marriage is in doubt. At its most basic level, an action for nullity
essentially challenges whether any valid marriage ever occurred. The granting
of an annulment can have drastic consequences that affect your rights
to property, spousal support, entitlement to health insurance, or distribution
of retirement assets. Because a nullity of marriage can potentially impact
so many economic entitlements a husband or wife may be entitled to, you
need to make sure filing for an annulment is in your best interests. Talking
to an attorney who is well-versed in the applicable law is a good first step.
A marriage can either be void or voidable, depending on the facts of your
case. Incestuous marriages are void
per se, which means that the marriage - from the time of its inception - is illegitimate.
It makes no difference that the parties may have consented to such a union
- an incestuous marriage is void and cannot be "perfected" under
the law. Marriages between parents, children, brothers, sisters, uncles,
aunts, nieces, and nephews are void and cannot be cured. This same general
principle applies to bigamous and polygamous marriages.
A voidable marriage is one that is legally defective, but not necessarily
illegitimate. Voidable marriages are those involving minors, fraud, force,
prolonged absence, physical incapacity, and/or mental incapacity. The
underlying defects can sometimes be cured, or excused, and the parties
themselves can decide whether to pursue an annulment or a dissolution
of marriage. This is where the advice of experienced counsel can help
guide you in your decision-making.
Ariel Tello is an associate with The Buncher Law Corporation in Irvine.
His practice is focused on family law litigation and mediation. For a
free consultation, and more information on the process, please contact